The sky's no limit: Strippers, nudists take to the air

And you thought the friendly skies had turned cruel, what with the incessant delays, the near-bankruptcy of airlines, and the lousy food.

Silly you.

No, the news from the airline industry is getting better all the time– that is, if you're a man who thinks the golden age of air travel ended when "Coffee, tea, or me?" was purged from the flight attendant vocabulary.

You may have missed the big news because it was announced the day after Christmas, but Hooters– the restaurant chain that not only offers legs, breasts, and thighs on the menu but also spilling out of the waitresses' uniforms– actually bought North Carolina-based Pace Airlines with the intention of turning it into a flying frat party.

"Our hope is to have Hooters girls on the airplanes themselves," Mike McNeil, the company's marketing vice president told me (ignoring for a moment what Hooters has always claimed: that the name of the restaurant chain refers to owls, not a commonly used colloquialism to describe a particularly prominent feature of the female anatomy).

McNeil says the new Hooters Air will cater to male customers doing charter trips– like a foursome of buddies heading down to Myrtle Beach for a golf vacation.

"This is leisure travel, and the presence of the Hooters girls says that," McNeil says. "When you're marketing a vacation to golfers, say, and they get on the aircraft, and there are Hooters girls serving beverages, well, there's a different environment than a regularly scheduled airline going to your grandmother's funeral."

I hope not! Just because a man's grandmother has died does not mean that he has to stop being a man, you know. Does the part of the male brain that appreciates a female rear end framed by a very short pair of hot pants die with his grandmother?

I think not.

You may not realize it, but the state of the American grandmother is an integral part of whether Hooters Air will be successful. Given the stepped-up federal control over passenger screening and in-flight security, I wondered whether there were any new limits to what airlines could do to alter the in-flight environment. I wasn't sure whether the same uniforms that whet the appetites of Hooters restaurant customers even would be legal at an altitude of 35,000 feet, but an expert assured me that there are no federal rules requiring flight attendants to conceal the parts of their bodies that male customers tend to want to see.

"But it becomes an issue of marketing," says Jim McKie, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, an airline industry lobbying group that more typically discusses government bonds rather than flight attendants' buns. "An airline with girls in bikinis would attract a certain type of flyer, but I doubt that your grandmother would want to fly with them."

Especially if she's dead.

Now you may want to think that Hooters Air is an aberration, but they're not alone. Following that classic Hollywood tradition of merging popular ideas– "It's like 'Die Hard,' but on a bus!"– the new Ecstasky Airlines has what sounds like the perfect movieland pitch: "We'll take a topless bar– and put it on a plane!"

The Los Angeles-based company offers high-rollers a chance to cavort with strippers en route to Las Vegas. Just in case anyone is tempted to confuse Ecstasky Airlines with the competition, a company ecdysiast– that's a fancy word for a striptease artist– named Rachel recently told an L.A. morning show that "We have hooters, but we're not with Hooters."

Other TV coverage has shown the strippers inviting passengers to consume whipped cream off their bodies– which makes that little bag of peanuts pale by comparison.

And it's all legal as far as the Federal Aviation Administration is concerned. Hell, you might even feel safer on Ecstasky Airlines, what with the floatation devices no longer limited to just your seat cushion. (Full disclosure? I am not one of those people– and I'm not just saying that because my wife just came over to my desk. No, siree, Ecstasky may be some men's idea of heaven, but it's this reporter's idea of hell. I mean, after the first lap dance, what is there to talk about with a stripper for the rest of the flight?)

And if the topless dancers of Ecstasky Airlines don't go far enough to satisfy your needs as a business traveler (or, more likely, you can't get it approved by your accounting department), you might consider flying Naked Air.

File this under W for "Why didn't I think of this first?" but a group of nudists– which is a nice word for people who choose not to wear clothes even though most of the time, they should– has chartered an airplane for what is believed to be the world's first "clothing optional" commercial flight.

The flight will go from Miami to Cancun, where the nudists have rented out the El Dorado Resort and Spa for "special Nude Week activities and theme nights [that] may include Caesar's Rampage/Toga night, a special 'castaway' night à la Tom Hanks' movie, Karaoke night, PJ night, body painting, plus lots more fun themes and games. Nude swimming pools, nude beaches, restaurants, nude bars plus daily/nightly activities and entertainment complete the package."

But thankfully, the FAA has laid down the law this time, reminding the so-called "Naked Air" that there are very strict rules covering in-flight nudity. "[Only] once the aircraft reaches cruising altitude," a Naked Air brochure states, "you will be free to enjoy the flight clothes-free."

Except, apparently, if you're my grandmother.

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